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Journalist threatened after reporting on gangs in Colombia

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 16 March 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a threat made against Colombian newspaper columnist Ana Cristina Restrepo Jiménez and calls on authorities to hold the perpetrator to account.

Restrepo, a widely read columnist for the dailies El Colombiano of Medellín and El Espectador newspaper of Bogotá, told CPJ she received a telephone call on Saturday after she conducted interviews in a neighborhood in Medellín that is dominated by drug gangs. She said the caller, who did not identify himself, warned her not to return to Medellín's Lovaina barrio and threatened one of her contacts in Lovaina.

"Don't come back here or else we will kill him and then you," the caller said, according to Restrepo. The caller added that he knew where Restrepo's children attended school.

For several months, Restrepo has conducted interviews with residents in Lovaina for a chapter in a book about Medellín neighborhoods. Restrepo spoke to sources about local drug sales and was told the narcotics trade was controlled by the Oficina de Envigado, Medellín's most powerful crime syndicate, she told CPJ.

Restrepo told CPJ that she reported the threat to Medellín police and the attorney general's office.

Journalists reporting on sensitive issues in Colombia, such as the country's decades-long conflict, crime, and corruption, have faced renewed violence and intimidation in recent years, according to CPJ research. At least two journalists have been killed in unclear circumstances in Colombia since February 14. CPJ continues to investigate whether the murders were related to their work.

"At a time of increased violence against journalists in Colombia, authorities must take this threat against Ana Cristina Restrepo Jiménez seriously," said Sara Rafsky, CPJ's Americas research associate from New York. "Authorities should fully investigate and guarantee that Restrepo can continue her reporting without fear of violent reprisal."

Restrepo's husband, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, a think tank that researches organized crime in Latin America, told CPJ that he believed the threat originated from the Oficina de Envigado because the criminal bands that operate in the Lovaina barrio fall under that group.

According to Insight Crime's website, the Oficina de Envigado was once part of Pablo Escobar's Medellín cartel and now runs extortion, gambling and money laundering operations in the city, as well as sizeable networks of drug trafficking.

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